FT digs out Pentagon’s list of firms with ‘military links'

The Chinese 20: FT digs out Pentagon’s list of firms with ‘military links’

25 June 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The US has stirred up its trade and security battle with China thanks to a list of 20 Chinese companies will alleged military links – apparently from 21 years ago.

The Financial Times has published the list, compiled back in 1999 but only revealed today. According to the FT report today, “Congress required the Pentagon to produce the list in 1999 but officials never followed through on the request.”

The US Department of Defense cleared the list for publication 12 days ago, the image published by the FT shows.

Some of the names missing from the list probably show their relative unimportance at the end of the last century.

The Pentagon list includes China Mobile and China Telecom, but omits China Unicom, though that was already five years old in 1999. It includes Huawei, 12 years old in 1999, but leaves out ZTE, which is two years older.

There is no mention of any Chinese cloud, search or internet services provider – just as might be expected from a list compiled in 1999.

Telecoms companies owned by China International Trust and Investment Corporation – now CITIC – do not appear, even though two of them are threatened with losing their licences to provide services in the US.

According to the FT, the 1999 law, under which the list was compiled, “specifies Chinese companies that operate ‘directly or indirectly’ in the US”, a rule that “gives the president authorisation to impose sanctions”.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has threatened to withdraw international licences from China Telecom and China Unicom, as well as from two CITIC Telecoms subsidiaries. Last year it refused a licence to China Mobile, eight years after the largest Chinese telco applied for one.

An official told the FT: “This list sheds light on Chinese military companies operating in the US to inform the named congressional committees and … the executive branch, in light of the role such companies may play in transferring sensitive technology to the Chinese military.”

China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are largely state-owned. Huawei has always denied any state control, saying it is owned by its employees.

Other companies on the Pentagon list are in the aerospace, nuclear power, railways and shipbuilding industries.